Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal continues to struggle
The evidence of Rafael Furcal’s frustration was inside the visitors’ clubhouse at Land Shark Stadium on Sunday.
There, atop an equipment trunk, were the remnants of a batting helmet, shattered in a pique of anger the night before.
“He’s getting frustrated. There’s no question,” Manager Joe Torre said of Furcal, who hit .167 on the Dodgers’ six-game trip, dropping his season average to .233. “Right now I think it’s just [being] overanxious. Physically, he seems fine.”
Furcal didn’t play Sunday, a scheduled off day to give his surgically repaired back rest.
And Torre said he talks with Furcal as many as five times a week to make sure he’s OK mentally.
But, the manager added, Furcal’s anxiety is causing him to jump at some pitches and overswing on others, a tendency opposing teams are exploiting.
“I’m seeing the ball well. I feel good. But I’m not hitting,” Furcal said as he pedaled an exercise bike Sunday morning.
“I’m working. I’m hitting early every day. I’m doing extra work.”
A switch-hitter, Furcal is batting 53 points below his career average. And he’s batting only .225 left-handed.
“Left-handed, I feel a little lost,” he said.
“I don’t feel comfortable. I’ll sometimes swing at a bad pitch. And these are the things that have me a little worried.”
An added concern now is the possibility Furcal’s struggles at the plate could be affecting other parts of his game. No major league shortstop started Sunday with more errors than Furcal, who has six. And although he stole 37 bases in his last full season, he has only three steals this year -- none since April 25.
Hitting coach Don Mattingly said he has no doubts Furcal will break out of his slump. But the more frustrated he becomes, Mattingly said, the longer that will take.
“I really get more concerned with just him getting frustrated and letting things kind of snowball. That’s what I don’t want to happen,” Mattingly said.
“There’s a big chunk of the year left and sometimes guys let that early-on [slump] affect what’s going to happen instead of putting this behind them.
“And that’s really what I want to happen. For him to flip the page and start over. It’s today. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday.”
Eric Stults skipped his regular between-starts bullpen session Sunday because of soreness in his left thumb, which he sprained on a fielding play in the fifth inning of Friday’s win over the Marlins.
That leaves Stults’ status for Wednesday’s game against the New York Mets in question.
“If he can throw [today] then he’ll probably be able to start. But we’ll see,” Torre said
If the left-hander can’t go, Torre said he’d probably use Jeff Weaver with left-hander Eric Milton going to the bullpen as a long reliever.
Right-hander Jason Schmidt gave up two runs and five hits -- all doubles -- in seven innings Sunday in his second minor league rehabilitation start for Class-A Inland Empire. Schmidt, who hasn’t pitched in the majors in 23 months, threw 99 pitches and displayed a biting curveball and good command despite walking three. . . . Bench players Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus and Juan Castro made the most of their chance to start Sunday, combining to go six for 13 with seven runs, four RBIs and a homer. Ausmus has hit safely in all six games he has started this season.
VS. NEW YORK
Where: Dodger Stadium
On the air: TV: Prime; Radio -- 790, 930.
Probable pitchers: Randy Wolf vs. Tim Redding; Tuesday: Chad Billingsley (5-1, 2.30) vs. John Maine (3-2, 4.24). Wednesday: Eric Stults (4-1, 3.82) vs. Livan Hernandez (3-1. 5.59)
Update: After a short trip that included three games against the World Series champion Phillies, the Dodgers return home for three games with the division-leading Mets, who began the week leading the majors in hitting and, at a red-hot 12-4, leading the National League in wins in May. But they’ll get a tough test in Wolf, who held the Phillies to a run over six innings in his last start. And with 11 wins in 16 decisions, he has beaten the Mets more than anyone else in his 11-year career. Tonight’s start will be the first of the year for Redding, who started the season on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff. He pitched well in two rehab starts for triple-A Buffalo, though, giving up four runs in 13 innings.
-- Kevin Baxter